Phoenix Coyotes 2000 Draft Preview

By HF Staff
When Wayne Gretzky joined the Phoenix Coyote franchise it was supposed to serve as notice for the entire NHL that the Coyotes organization was to be taken seriously; that they were serious about making a run at becoming one of the NHL elite. If the Coyotes are indeed serious about making a run at the Cup, the changes are slated to start at the NHL entry draft.

Currently the Coyotes are scheduled to pick 19th in the draft. It is doubtful that the Coyotes will finish draft day at that position if GM Bobby Smith decides to unload one of disgruntled center Robert Reichel, underachieving center Daniel Briere, or star goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. It should be noted that it is becoming more likely that the Coyotes will resign Khabibulin rather than subject him to a trade. However, reports out of Phoenix have Smith turning down several trade proposals for Robert Reichel that included a first round pick. Robert Reichel may be underrated, but he is still one who is holding the team ransom for a pretty hefty contract. The only way Phoenix would turn such a proposal down is if the first rounder involved a team drafting near the end of the draft. Based on that information it is easy to speculate that the teams in question include Pittsburgh and Detroit. Another strong possibility is the Coyotes packaging up Briere and their first rounder in a package in order to move up in the draft. The Montreal Canadiens are apparently very high on Briere but it remains to be seen if they would be willing to move one of their two first round draft picks in order to acquire the speedy center.

The strategy for the Coyotes for this years draft is simple, draft the best player available. The Coyotes roster is littered with gaping holes, especially at forward. Scott Kelman, the Coyotes first pick last year (15th overall) has been touted as a player who makes an impact every shift by The Hockey News. They obviously don’t include goals and points in their criteria because he has hardly progressed to becoming a mainstay in the Coyotes roster. Kiril Safronov (19th overall – 1999 entry draft) and Ossi Vaananen (43rd overall – 1998 entry draft) provide a huge step to plug the future holes at defense with the imminent departures of top blueliners Lumme and Numminen; however, the problem is hardly solved. The only position the Coyotes seem set at is in goal. Prospects Robert Esche and Patick Desrochers are both progressing well. The Coyotes would be best suited to draft a forward with their first round pick. The most likely candidate to wear a Coyotes jersey appears to be Nikita Alexeev a 6’5″ giant who would add size and speed to the rather diminutive Coyotes roster

The only notable names the Coyotes stand to lose in the expansion draft are unrestricted free agents Dallas Drake and Lyle Odelein.